Week 2 – The Evocative Object

evocative (ɪˈvɒkətɪv)
— adj
tending or serving to evoke

evoke (ɪˈvəʊk)
— vb
1. to call or summon up (a memory, feeling, etc), esp from the past

This week we delved into the more philosophical aspect of our interaction with technology, especially the computer as an “evocative object”. Sherry Turkle in this week’s reading The Evocative Object, focused on the way computers “affect the way we think… about ourselves” (Turkle, Sherry 1984), yet we also fear the machine as someone powerful and threatening. In contemporary times, where the machine, more importantly, the internet, is such an influential part of our lives, this worry is logical and reasonable. Through studying the way we humans interact with machines, we can create our own private world, as a projective medium in which we inject our desires to control our surrounding, where we are otherwise unable to in the real world. Turkle’s experience in MIT showed that people are thinking of themselves in computational terms, that we think of these machines as another minds even if there is no true “intelligence”, just pre-programmed instructions and reactions in which the machines responds. Therefore we are able to question if “artificial intelligence” can truly become something akin to human beings and the human essence.

This idea of our behaviour within the machine is an extension of our desire to control our physical world is further exemplified when we look at our interaction with video games. Virtual life simulation games such as The Sims, allows us to control an emulated world and create an ideal life that we otherwise cannot lead in the real world. “For virtual reality to be interesting, it has to emulate the real. But you have to be able to do something in the virtual that you couldn’t in the real” (Turkle, Sherry 2005). The online life that people lead is a process of self-reflection, cyberspace a place to act our unresolved conflicts and replay personal difficulties. We have started to use the computer as an evocative object in order to work through significant problems, and reach for new resolutions.

References:

evocative.” Collins English Dictionary – Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition. HarperCollins Publishers., .

“evoke.” Collins English Dictionary – Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition.  HarperCollins Publishers., .

Turkle, S. 1984, ‘The Second Self: Computers and the Human Spirit’, Granada, London, pp. 1-16.

Turkle, S. 2005, ‘Computer Games as Evocative Object: From projective screens to relational artifacts’, in Raessens, Joost and Goldstein, Jeffry (ed.), Handbook of Computer Game Studies, The MIT Press Cambridge, London, pp. 267-79.

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